Supreme Court Case Highlights EPA Role in Carbon Pollution Protection

A Supreme Court decision confirmed the Environmental Protection Agency’s vital role in protecting against dangerous carbon pollution.

According to Justice Ginsburg, in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court addressed the question whether the plaintiffs (several states, the city of New York, and three private land trusts) can maintain federal common law public nuisance claims against carbon-dioxide emitters(four private power companies and the federal Tennessee Valley Authority).

The plaintiffs asked for a decree setting carbon-dioxide emissions for each defendant at an initial cap, to be further reduced annually. The Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency action the Act authorizes, the court found, displace the claims the plaintiffs seek to pursue. 

Citing Massachusetts v. EPA (2007), the court held that the Clean Air Act authorizes federal regulation of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

David Doniger, policy director of the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council, made the following statement:

"Today's ruling reaffirms the Environmental Protection Agency's duty under the nation’s 40-year-old Clean Air Act to safeguard public health and welfare from dangerous carbon pollution.  Now the EPA must act without delay.”

"Power plants are the nation’s biggest polluters, pumping more than two billion tons of carbon dioxide pollution into the air each year.  Their pollution is driving dangerous heat waves and smog, stronger storms, floods, and droughts, and many other threats to our health and safety and our homes and communities."

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